The Maryland House of Delegates voted 139-1 to make Adrienne Jones (D) the speaker of the house in a special session on Wednesday. She replaces Michael Busch (D), who passed away on April 7 after developing pneumonia. Busch had served as speaker since 2003 and was the longest serving speaker in Maryland history.
Jones, who was first elected in 1996, is the state’s first woman speaker and first black speaker. She emerged as a compromise candidate Wednesday afternoon after the Democratic caucus split between Maggie McIntosh (D) and Dereck Davis (D). According to the Washington Post, McIntosh was the more liberal candidate for speaker, and Davis was the more centrist candidate. Moreover, a majority of the 45-member Legislative Black Caucus (LBC) endorsed Davis, who is black, in a non-binding vote.
A candidate needed 70 votes on the floor to be elected. McIntosh won a Democratic caucus vote Wednesday, 58-40, but Republicans pledged to give Davis all of their 42 votes on the floor. Davis could have been elected by a cross-party coalition with over 70 votes if at least 28 of the 40 Democrats who supported him in caucus voted for him on the floor.
After the caucus vote, Democrats reconvened and unanimously decided to elevate Jones to the speakership over both declared candidates. After she was elected, Jones said, “Discussion went back and forth within our caucus in terms of who could get the [votes], and because of these two individuals that put unity of this House before their own ambition … they both came and talked with me separately that they would want me to be that person.”
Jones had been formally running for speaker prior to April 26, but she dropped out of the race, endorsed Davis, and called for members of the LBC to form an alliance to elect the first black speaker in state history.
Democrats hold a 98-42 majority in the Maryland House with Busch’s seat still vacant. The state is under divided government with Larry Hogan (R) as governor and Democratic control of the legislature.